Kanava in the North Country
Sault Sainte Marie (known as the “Soo”) is one of the oldest cities in the United States and the oldest in Michigan. Founded in 1668 by the French, it will celebrate its 350th anniversary in 2018. It has long been a crossroad for trade, as a strategic link between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, and it was known to the Ojibwe people as Bahweting or “The Gathering Place”, a vital fishing ground for centuries. Today about 80 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Locks each year. The iron ore alone is valued at $500.4 billion.
As the President and CEO of KANAVA International LLC, Susan Puska, who was born and raised in the Soo, chose to set up a satellite office here to support its international work, serve as a bridge between international and domestic economic development, and link the region to outside opportunities. Recently, KANAVA’s staff gathered for its first corporate retreat and its official grand opening on June 16th. The Soo Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, also known as “Red Coats,” led the ribbon cutting ceremony. Among the guests welcoming KANAVA were Mayor Anthony Bosbous, County Commissioner Don McLean, City Commissioner Don Gerrie, City Manager Oliver Turner, and other community partners.
While KANAVA’s headquarters remains in the Washington, DC area and personnel are working from different locations, we recognized how important it is to bring our staff together for professional development, team building, and communications strengthening. Although modern technology makes it easier to work virtually, no matter where in the world you are, looking for ways to communicate more effectively and periodic face-to-face interactions are essential. Additionally, since KANAVA links international and domestic economic development, enhancing staff expertise and understanding of the international-domestic interface is a top KANAVA priority.
KANAVA staff enjoyed developing presentations and facilitating discussion on various topics, including on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, international locations, cross-cultural communications tips, the difficulties of working virtually, and the challenges of starting-up and growing a business. But we also had time to get to know each other and the Eastern Upper Peninsula, going on a walking tour of the Soo, visiting Tahquamenon Falls, and eating in a local Chinese restaurant!
Going forward, we are very excited about providing services to local companies and non-profits in the Upper Peninsula and to become active in community affairs.